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The debt ceiling compromise isn't sitting well with some conservative Republicans

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Conservative Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus and liberal Democrats in the Progressive Caucus have found common ground on one thing, they oppose a debt ceiling compromise that President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to over the weekend. And together, objections on the right and on the left could jeopardize passage of the deal in Congress. We've called up a member of the Freedom Caucus, South Carolina Republican Congressman Ralph Norman, to understand why he objects to the deal. Good morning, Congressman. And thank you for being on the program.

RALPH NORMAN: My pleasure. Thank you.

FADEL: Well, now you've called this deal insanity. Can you explain why?

NORMAN: Yeah. It's insanity because, one, if we don't get our spending under control, then this country cannot exist as we know it. The 32 trillion and counting is what we owe now. I would argue it's a lot more. But when we saw this bill in writing, which we've just gotten within the last 24 hours, it was nothing like the bill that we had proposed. As an example, the limit on the debt ceiling we had at 1.4 trillion. And we had cuts to offset that. What McCarthy agreed to is basically taking the caps off. He can - this Biden administration can spend anywhere from four to - and up. It was no limit, what he can spend. And he transfers it. He's able to do that until after the presidential election.

FADEL: Now, House Speaker - oh, sorry. Go ahead.

NORMAN: No, I mean, I could go on and on. But that's the main - when I saw that, that was a nonstarter.

FADEL: Now, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says 95% of Republicans in Congress are on board with his deal, the deal that he's come up with President Biden. You're not among them. And you are on the House Rules Committee, which has an important role in moving the bill forward. Do you intend to try to stop this bill from moving forward in the House?

NORMAN: We're going to have to have amendments. I know McCarthy won't - Speaker McCarthy won't say closed rule with no amendments. The bill as is is unacceptable. And, you know, I'm new on the committee. Chip Roy is new. Thomas Massie, I think, is - has been on there. But I'm just not prepared to vote for this if we don't get - to surrender all of the basics of what we had in the Limit, Save and Grow is unacceptable. And you're turning the keys over to an administration that's proven to be compromised and corrupt. And it's just - it's not acceptable. The American people deserve better than this.

FADEL: Now, to be clear, this is money that's already been spent under the Biden administration, but also under the Trump administration. And a lot of Americans - Republicans, Democrats, independents - are scared about what a default could mean when it comes to how they pay their bills. Is a deal you view as bad worth throwing the U.S. government into default or risking the economy?

NORMAN: No. I don't think - we're not going to default. But now the question is, why did the Biden administration basically dither and not meet for over a hundred days? What purpose? The - Janet Yellen has moved the date now from June 1, in her opinion, to June 5.

FADEL: Right.

NORMAN: And it always boils down to, you know, if it were that important, deal with it early. And what Kevin McCarthy should have done is when he got back basically a compromise of everything that we - that all Republicans, 218, voted for - not one single Democrat voted for it. And when we got back basically a gutting and a surrender of all the principles in the - in our plan, then, you know, you've got to take action. And we will do that.

FADEL: So what's the path forward here? Have you spoken to the House speaker about possible amendments? I mean, is that a possibility here?

NORMAN: Well, the Rules Committee, we'll find out today. We're meeting at 3, and so we'll find out. But there's got to be amendments on it. There's not going to be a closed rule unless something else is presented. This - to give this administration free rein on the vault of America is just unacceptable. And his goal is to spend every dollar and no cuts. I mean, you got to remember, this administration said not a dollar in cuts. That's unacceptable.

FADEL: But there were cuts in the deal - right? - even though they said that.

NORMAN: There were no substantial cuts. It wasn't even close to getting this country out of the debt that we're in.

FADEL: Republican Congressman Ralph Norman represents South Carolina's fifth district. Thank you for your time, sir.

NORMAN: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.